A whale that washed up yesterday morning near Main Beach...

A whale that washed up yesterday morning near Main Beach continues to struggle in the surf in East Hampton Wednesday, April 7, 2010. Credit: Photo by Gordon M. Grant

As hundreds of people watched, a humpback whale calf stranded on an East Hampton beach sprayed water feebly, as its body was pushed by the surf.

Rescuers who have watched the whale since Tuesday morning, when it ended up on land, say the calf is too sick to be saved. Wednesday, they were considering how they could euthanize the animal safely.

"It's dying, and there's not a whole lot we can do about that," said Chuck Bowman, president of the marine mammal rescue program at the Riverhead Foundation. Rescuers continue to consult with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other groups. "It's an animal that's not a candidate for rescue," Bowman said.

Euthanizing the whale poses its own issues, including what drugs to use and what equipment can penetrate the whale's blubber without endangering workers, he said. In 1999, a 2,000-pound sperm whale stranded in Westhampton Beach sent a rescue worker flying 8 feet into the air, giving him a concussion.

"One flip of its tail, you could break your arm, you could break your neck," Bowman said.

Shortly after noon, police escorted members of the Shinnecock Nation's Thunderbird family to the water's edge for a ceremony with songs and prayers for the whale, which the tribe considers sacred.

With Debbie Tuma

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